Target: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
Goal: Commend expansion of religious accommodation for Sikhs, Jews, Muslims, Wiccans, and Buddhists in the military and encourage further opening of the military to religiously observant persons
Despite recent legislation in Quebec and France restricting the wearing of religious symbols in public, the United States Department of Defense has made its priorities clear by protecting religious observance in the military. The Pentagon introduced a new policy that would allow religious attire such as turbans, beards, tattoos and other adornments in most cases.
Currently, because of the conflict between Sikh tradition and military rules, only three Sikh men serve in the U.S. military. This policy change will open the door for many Sikh Americans to serve their country and, hopefully, will also combat some of the bias towards Sikhs in the U.S.
Nevertheless, Anisha Singh, an advocate for United Sikhs has argued that the vague language and arbitrary standards of the new policy will still make it difficult for Sikh men to serve. Under the policy, religious accommodations will be decided on a case-by-case basis based on the effect approval or denial has on “mission accomplishment” and safety. While case-by-case decision-making might be effective in some cases, a Sikh man will need to know he does not need to cut his hair and can wear his turban in order to serve.
It is commendable that the Department of Defense is supporting religious tolerance and freedom when some parts of the international community are denying their citizens that freedom. However, the Pentagon should expand their rules further to allow Sikh men to serve in most roles while wearing the turban.
Sign this petition to thank Chuck Hagel for the policy change and to encourage him to do more to open up the military to Sikh men.
Dear Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel,
The Pentagon’s decision to expand religious accommodation in the military was excellent news for religious men and women wishing to serve their country. The policy change was a landmark victory for religious freedom especially with the increase of laws banning religious observance in countries like Quebec.
However, as much as this change is commendable, more needs to be done for Sikh men to be able to serve in the military. The vague language and case-by-case basis of the policy means that Sikh men do not know they will be able to constantly wear their turbans and keep their hair long while serving. By outlining specific roles that Sikh men can do with religious accommodation, the military can raise the number of serving Sikh men to higher than three.
I urge you to create rules that will allow more Sikh Americans to serve their country proudly.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Harkanwal Singh via Wikimedia Commons